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Neglect

The scary corner next to our shed is where bikes and scooters go to die. I wish I could say these deaths were quick, like a swift or sudden trip to the thrift store up the street. Alas, I cannot. These once coveted and doted upon scooters and two wheelers of various sizes and models are resigned to a slow neglect that leads to a rusty end. Slow neglect has a cumulative effect.

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As I am preparing for our Fall Women’s Bible study, I have been spending time deep diving into the letter (or more like polished sermon series) of Hebrews.  One cannot wade too deeply into this book without coming quickly upon warnings, so much so that it has been called “the book of warnings.”

After having established that Christ, the Incarnate Son of God, is far superior to angelic beings, the writer gets quickly to the punch line of this first of many “Christ is better than” arguments.

Therefore we must pay much closer attention to what we have heard, lest we drift away from it.  Hebrews 2:1

The warm up is over. The warnings are beginning. And we would do well to heed them.

The Greek word translated “much closer” above is perissos which means excessive, vehement, abundant, exceeding. The writer bids his Jewish Christian friends, who are familiar with the Torah and the gospel to which it pointed all along, to pay excessive, almost myopic attention to holding onto the gospel. The Greek word translated “pay attention” above is prosecho, meaning to hold on to, to pay careful attention to, to join yourself to something or someone.

Excessively, aggressively hold on to and set your gaze on Christ, the comprehensive, final Word from God who used to speak in bits and pieces (Hebrews 1:1-2).

Having made his admonition to these believing friends clear, the writer does what God often did in the Old Testament. He pairs a commands with a warning.

For since the message declared by angels proved to be reliable, and every transgression, or disobedience received a just retribution, how shall we escape if we neglect such a great salvation. It was declared at first by the Lord, and it was attested to us by those who heard. Hebrews 2:2-3.  

Referring back to the argument he laid out in chapter 1,  the writer reminds the Jewish believers  what they already likely knew. It did not go well for those who went against  the messages sent by angels. Their messages proved true. Thus, if Christ is far more than an angelic dispatch, being the very Word of God (John 1),  how much more should we heed His words and warnings. After all, the Word of God is reliable and solid. Not one Word drops empty from the Father, they shall all come to pass.

The writer poses the powerful question: if those who neglected angelic messages received just retribution, what will happen to us if we neglect so great a salvation?

The Greek word translated “neglect” above, ameleo, literally means to be careless about, to disregard, to be unaffected by, or to perceive as no value or of no moment.

Ouch. Neglect hits close to home, as the graveyard of scooters and bikes will attest.

It was hard to imagine on Christmas morning when those boys received those long-awaited, much-coveted bikes and scooters that one day they would be  gathering dust and cobwebs. The kids paid attention to them, doted on them, took care of them, valued them. For a little while. Until they became less shiny, less new. Until they became a regular part of the background of our lives.

Tonight, as I sat to meditate on these warnings, as applicable now as when they were originally written, I found my heart longing to re-value and re-esteem the inestimable gospel that so often grows dingy from my own neglect. To be clear, the gospel does not lose value. It is, as the writer said, such a great salvation. But we have a choice as to how we treasure and value this unthinkable gift. Are we neglecting it or nurturing it?

Lord, may we fight daily to consider and reconsider our Christ. May the good news of salvation that was purchased with the priceless blood of Christ never appear rusty or old in our hearts or our homes. Amen.

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On Cotton Balls and Christ: The Significance of Children’s Ministry

I have to admit that when I looked over the lesson I was scheduled to teach the children’s large group, I saw it and sighed in relief.

The Parable of the Lost Sheep.

I know this one well. Easy story to engage the kids. Cue the cotton balls and glue sticks. Check. 

And then the Spirit convicted me, inviting me to spend some time praying over the lesson rather than defaulting to doing it out of muscle memory and my own strength.

All those precious little sheep, being led to worship Sunday by Sunday by their parents or caregivers. A squirmy, squirrelly flock, to be sure. But a flock of impressionable little souls entrusted to our care by the Over-Shepherd. Several rows of seed beds ready to receive the sown Word of God that is able to save their souls and steer their lives to the Savior.

What a privilege, what a tall task. The lesson that had looked like a walk in the park suddenly became weighty.

My husband and I have a unique vantage point as we have been called to college ministry.  This means that while we serve our Church in other avenues such as women’s ministry, young adult ministry and pastoral care,  our hearts have a homing device for college students.

We see all kinds of lost sheep being pursued by the Shepherd. Some of them, having grown up in the Church, have taken their cues from the younger brother.  They find themselves far from the fold in the particular pigsties of their choosing. Others have taken their cues from the older brother, staying but shakily standing on their own good choices, morality, and proximity rather than on the solid ground of the atoning work of Christ.

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No matter to the Shepherd. He will have His sheep. He will pursue them whether they stray from Him in the far-off villages or stay distant from Him in the first row of pews. He will shake their self-indulgence or self-righteousness until they seek safety in a Savior.

After all, that is what Christ was communicating to the original audience in this series of parables.

To the Pharisees, who knew the law but didn’t know the lawlessness of their self-righteousness, Christ gave assurance. The heart of God is like a father who pursues his outwardly compliant children through carefully constructed corridors of correctness because he longs for intimacy and dependence.

To the disciples, who felt found at the time but would scatter as scared sheep when suffering sought their Savior, Christ gave assurance. I’ll gather back my hiding flock and fill them with a power source that will send them out boldly as shepherds.

To the hedonists and here-and-now pleasure-seekers who chose short-lived pleasure over the presence of the father, Christ gave assurance.  When you come to the end of yourself and decide to turn towards home, I will run to meet you, eagerly celebrating your return.

All those little sheep I get to teach tomorrow will find themselves in their own stories one day.  But the Shepherd loves His sheep. He will stop at nothing to have His own.

This lesson goes far beyond cotton balls, leading to Christ. I cannot wait.

 

 

 

 

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Lengthening the Leash

For the past few hours, I have been running around like a kid who drank an espresso. I bought all the yellow things. I purchased tiny toiletries. I even bought new underwear for my oldest son.

Why the sudden show of my inner crazy?

We are sending our oldest son to camp for a week. A week in the woods without us. I have been playing it cool as a cucumber, but one glance at the packing list made it real today.

I did what I do when I am anxious.  I went into preparation mode. You would think I would have learned by now to let the Lord lasso me and draw my hurried, worried heart unto His loving lap and His listening ear. But no, I did all the things instead.

Like a toddler who just needs to have her little tantrum and get all the unregulated emotion out, the Lord (and also my discerning husband) let me check all the things off my list.

Then, I finally sat down to face what was really going on below the surface. Fear. Anxiety. Unbelief. An overgrown view of self and a marginalized view of the vastness of God.

I did all the small things in my control because I was not ready to remember that the big, most important things are not in my control, not by a long stretch.

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I cannot control my son’s safety while he is at camp. I have to trust the Spirit in him, in his counselors and his friends.

I cannot control my son’s behavior while he is gone. I cannot micromanage his diet, his bedtime, his use of his limited spending money. He may drink all the slurpies and none of the veggies. And if he does, he will learn through natural consequences that are not being meted out by my motherly hand.

But most significantly,  I cannot make my child encounter Christ more deeply.  I can have him memorize Scripture (as he has been this summer), but I cannot make him see Christ as beautiful.

I know that this last, most salient  point is true all of the time, but clearly my heart does not fully believe this to be the case. My proximity to my child masks my powerlessness to initiate or sustain the most significant things that I most yearn and pray for his life. But now, as I am meticulously labeling and packing his duffle back to send him hours away, the truth is clear as day.

He is not mine. He is not ours. He is on loan to us from His Creator. It is His to control and compel our son, not ours. It is His to captivate his twelve-year old soul with the Cross, not ours.

This lengthening of the leash is a simultaneous stretching of my faith.

Do I really believe to be Christ to be his all in all? Unfortunately, I often live like I believe Christ is to fill in the gaps that I leave from time to time. I have inadvertently made my mothering more central than God’s forever fathering.

When the Apostle Paul was writing his last personal letter to his son and protege in the faith,  he penned a verse that haunts me.

I know whom I am believed, and I am convinced that he is able to guard until that Day what has been entrusted to me. 2 Timothy 1:12.  

Paul worked like a dog, but he trusted like a loved son. He gave himself to the work God had entrusted to him, but when it was time to pass the baton, he did so with full confidence. He was not reluctant to hand over the church-planting reigns to a timid Timothy. Rather, his constant experiences of the faithfulness of God enabled his entrusting his kingdom call to Timothy.

I can send my son to camp on Sunday because God is faithful and always has been. My experiences of God’s character enable me to learn to entrust more and more of my son’s life to Him.

And this is just training wheels. Soon it will be high school, then driving, then college,  then marriage.

But God is faithful, so I can prayerfully lengthen the leash.

 

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On Thighs and a Greater Prize

I love weddings. I love to hear my husband officiate. I love to remember my own vows as an echo of God’s own covenant vows to His people.  I love celebrating beautiful brides. I love watching the groom’s face as his bride appears for the first time. I love it all. But at the most recent wedding we attended, I nearly let my thighs steal all the joy.

I live a healthy lifestyle. We eat fairly well. I try to work up a decent sweat daily in some form or fashion. But the values and priorities of our lives have squished out spare time for the more intense workouts I used to love.  As such, my thighs are not what they once were.

I know that I could rearrange our lives to get my thighs back to their best form. I could write less. I could leave less responsive time in my life for my boys by proactively scheduling hour long workouts. I could quit my part-time job doing women’s ministry. But I haven’t, as I have not felt compelled or called by God to do so.

Normally, I let my thighs be my thighs, whatever size they may be. But, as I was dress shopping for recent weddings, I let my thighs (or more correctly, I let LIES) get the better of me. It seemed, in those terrible, fluorescent lights of the dressing room, that my thighs had taken on their own zip code.

I did not like what I saw. And my discontentment opened the door for my eyes to follow in their own sinful suit of comparison. Her legs look great in that dress. She is older than me, but her legs look great. 

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I had allowed the age-old Enemy to hit me in a place of vulnerability. And then I let the lie linger until it nearly stole my joy.

The same repentance that led to life when I first came to Christ led me to life this weekend.

Christ enabled me to repent and be restored to the joy of Him being the great prize, no matter the size of my thighs. He gently showed me that I was letting my own image eclipse the fact that He allowed me to be His image-bearer. He reminded me that not only had He gave me physical eyes, He had also opened up blinded spiritual eyes to see Him, myself, and others, not as the world defines them, but as He does.

I wish I could say that being in my mid-thirties made me immune to high school fears. I wish I could say that being the pastor’s wife at the wedding meant I had reached full confidence in Christ alone. Alas, I cannot.

But I can repent and cling to Christ. I can remember that these thighs have enabled me to    bring three boys into the world. They have enabled me to go on walks with my husband. They have sat criss-cross applesauce holding a Bible and journal. They have allowed me to stand and declare the Word of God to kindergartners, college students, and women.

Don’t get me wrong, I aim to take good care of them, but I refuse to let their size dictate my worth or confidence. I want my life to be marked by a dogged, yet Divinely-enabled obsession with finishing the race set before me. I want my eyes to be far more fixed on the great prize than on the size of my thighs. I want these thighs to walk me in confident initiation and service to others until the day that I sit on Christ’s strong thighs and see Him face to face.

 

 

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An Avocado Soul

I don’t remember eating, or even seeing,  avocados until I was an adult. I am certain they existed, but they did not exist to me. With their strange bulbous, shape and dull color,  I must have written them off, except for when they were mushed into the glorious gift of  guacamole.

Upon moving to Southern California, the avocado has taken far more of a place of prominence in my diet and my life. Avocado on toast. Avocado on salad. Avocado all by its good-fat-self. I am waiting for someone out here to make an avocado latte. But then again, I think I would have to draw the line there.

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When we were filling our raised garden beds at our old house, we looked into an avocado tree. After all, who wouldn’t want those gems growing in their own front yard where they would not break the already-strained grocery budget?

I asked a friend who has the greenest thumb on the earth, and she looked at my green self (as in naive and inexperienced) and pointed me, rather wisely,  to a blood orange tree.  It seems that avocado trees are among the harder trees to establish.  You can buy them semi-affordably as saplings, but they take coddling and copious amounts of attention and care to establish. In fact, they don’t even begin to make large enough fruit to consume for 10-15 years in perfect conditions.

Because you cannot grow an avocado tree overnight or even over-decade, it takes a long-term view to want to get in the game.

I took her advice and went with the Cara-Cara Blood Orange tree, which is already fruiting and filling our bellies; however, her advice stuck with me in the strangest way. I now think see souls as avocado sapplings. I tend to think of my own soul and the souls of those who have been placed under my clumsy care (namely my husband and children and the college students and staff whom God has brought into my life) as a nursery of  avocado sapplings of various sizes and stages.

We need patient care and constant tending. We take forever to establish. We will only bear fruit with the tender care of the Heavenly Husbandman. And it will take a long time before we are fruiting faithfully and consistently.

Yet, God, who stands outside of time, is not a harried husbandman. He has always been one to take the longest view, the eternal view. He prunes and coaches, coaches and prunes. And He will not settle for puny fruit. He will have us bear fruits that is worthy of having His name, His produce sticker, upon them. Nothing less than mature and majestic.

Everyday on my walking route with our dog Mater (who also loves avocados) I pass two towering avocado trees, fruiting bushels of amazing fruits. In addition to wanting to climb into their yard and pluck a handful (which I have not done…thank you very much),  I want so desperately to be like those twin trees. I want my soul to be established with deep roots into God’s Word like the avocado trees’ roots that run under the roads into rich layers of earth. I want to confidently wink at stubborn draughts like those trees who have water sources deep in the dropping water tables. I want to be heavy with fruit that can bless, nurture, and feed others, all the while honoring the God who fashioned their green flesh.

Right now, I look like a gangly, naked avocado tree; but one day, I will be heavy with the fruits of maturity. I have one who paid a great price for my sapling soul, and He will carefully tend me and mine unto maturity.

Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely,  and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. He who calls you is faithful; he will surely do it. 1 Thessalonians 5:23-24.

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To the Utterly Dependent on Independence Day

I love franks and fireworks like the best of them. We took part in our neighborhood bike parade with bikes and bodies decked out in red, white, and blue.  But this Independence Day, my mind and heart have been with those who feel utterly dependent.

You see, a few days ago, I dropped off some Fourth of July goodies to our friends who are in the hospital with their nearly two year old who is battling cancer.  The flags and silly glasses were my sad attempt to show solidarity.

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I cannot imagine what it feels like to be living quarantined in a small hospital room on  any day, not to mention a holiday that celebrates freedom and independence. The suffering feel and understand deeply what is true innately of all of us: life is a gift that we do not control.

And I know that my friends are not alone in their quiet suffering in the midst of the cookouts and kebabs. There are those who cannot get out because they are caring for aged parents. There are single parents who have to work on holidays to make ends meet. There are single people who feel like they are missing out on all the family fun. There are struggling married couples smiling to cover the dissonance in their relationship. There are people imprisoned, whether physically, emotionally or mentally. They have been given the unwanted gift of utter dependence.

From them we can learn to look to a Coming Day of freedom, one that is not bound by national borders or the constraints of time. They remind me that, while freedom on this earth is to be enjoyed and celebrated, we were made for a far more wholistic freedom. We were made to enjoy the presence of our Creator God face to face. We were made to live in perfect unity inter-personally and well as intra-personally.

Everything in us whispers that we were made for more, even on festive days of fireworks and friends.

The prophet Isaiah declared boldly what he saw ever-so-dimly coming one day: the promised One who would inaugurate a better kingdom.

The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me to bring good news to the poor; he has sent me to bind up the broken-hearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening  of the prison to those who are bound (Isaiah  61:1-2). 

Christ, the freest One, was bound to the Cross that we might be free.

Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is there is freedom (2 Corinthians 3:17). 

Whom the Son sets free is free indeed (John 8:36).

Those who know Him now yearn for the day when we will know Him fully. Those who do not yet know Him have the pains of separation meant to point them to the source  of lasting freedom.

While we celebrate the gift of the independence of our nation, may we also celebrate the greater freedom that can never be taken away. May we remember those who feel anything but independent and celebratory today. May we look with expectant eyes and work with ready hands for the Coming Day of lasting freedom.

And, now, back to the brats.

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New Month, New Mercies

July 1. I came home from a sweet time away  in sweltering rural Illinois to a long list of things that needed to be done: emails to send, books to read, appointments to make, curriculum to write.

Overwhelmed,  I did the one thing that did not need to be done: organize my cleaning supplies, since that was clearly urgent. While I was working, the Lord was working on me. While I was arranging Mrs. Meyers sprays, He was rearranging things in my own heart.

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When I think of the staggering scope of shaping souls, imaging God, speaking His Words, and modeling life-with-Him before my children who see me when I am not behind a podium or on the clock, I stutter and stagger, hiding my face like Moses did in Exodus 3.

Tending his flock, perhaps on an average Tuesday, Moses turned aside in the midst of the terribly ordinary to see something terrifying extraordinary. A burning bush that was not consumed. Perhaps he initially thought he was losing it from the isolation and long hours of shepherding. No, that really was a bush burning yet not.

And the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a flame of fire out of the midst of a bush. He looked, and behold, the bush was burning, yet it was not consumed…When the Lord saw that he turned aside to see, God called to him out of the bush, “Moses, Moses!” And he said, “Here I am” (Exodus 3: 2-4). 

God sought him out, got him alone and got his attention. Then, he proceeded to call him by name twice. Naming someone twice is a sign of intimacy and friendship in Jewish literature, thus God transcendent became God intimate.

Then he said, “Do not come near; take your sandals off your feet,  for the place on which you are standing is holy ground.” And he said, “I am the God of your Father, the God of  Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.” And Moses hid his face, for he was afraid to look at God (Exodus 3:5-6).

The God who longed to reveal Himself, the uncreated Creator who had established a relationship with Moses’ forefathers was not done yet. He was inviting Moses into his story, revealing Himself yet again that He might carry out the plans He had formed long ago.

Talk about staggering scope. God invited Moses, who had not really asked for a burning bush or to witness Someone so holy and other that he had to remove his shoes and hide his face, to an unthinkable task.

To follow through on this call, Moses would have to deal with his own murderous guilt and shame by going back to the land from whence he fled. He would have to confront the strongest, most scary leader in the known world. He would bring out a bustling, breeding people from slavery. Talk about a to-do list.

But all that God was inviting Moses to do was essentially wrapped up in God’s being.

Then Moses said to God, “If I come to the people of Israel and say to them, ‘The  God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ what shall I say to them?” God said to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM” (Exodus 3:13-14).

After a little more cajoling, Moses began to move in faith towards the impossible to-do list set before him because of the God who revealed Himself to him.

While God has not called me or you to set free captives on a massive scale, He does have a call on our lives. He has revealed Himself to us in an event even more jaw-dropping than a burning bush. In the death and resurrection of Christ, we have the clearest picture of God’s character. God transcendent became God imminent in the incarnation. He set us free from captivity to sin and death. He invites us into the extraordinary redemption story right where we are in our ordinary lives.

And still, our doing must flow from His being. Our executing the tasks set before us is deeply rooted in His existence.

Thus, we must begin a new month of tasks and challenges with fresh reminders of His mercies.

 

 

 

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She Said Yes

She said yes.

My husband is about to officiate the wedding of two dear friends and gospel coworkers. We are officially at the age and stage when we no longer fit as groomsmen or  bridesmaid or even matrons. And I am so thankful.  Our new roles as officiant and prayer-gathering, errand-runner, perspective-offerer are far more suited to us (and far less make-up is involved, at least for me).

When a woman-in-Christ says yes to marriage, she steps out in bravery into multiplied brokenness and beauty to be exposed both within herself and without. She says yes to leaving all she has known (the good, the bad, and the ugly cloaked in the comfortable garb of the familiar). She says yes to cleaving to an imperfect man cleaving imperfectly to a perfect Savior. She says yes to an unknown future of employment and unemployment, to struggles and sicknesses that they can not yet see or imagine in their ripped and ravishing counterparts.

She says yes to quiet nights bearing heavy struggles. She says yes to conflicts that she could never contemplate. She says yes to meeting needs she doesn’t have. She says yes to championing and complementing her husband, even when he and/or the world think there is not much to champion.

That’s a lot of quiet, hidden yeses hidden behind the initial yes.

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But she does all of that in the power and on the promises and in the presence of the Christ who says yes, let it be so.

For all the promises of God find their yes in him. That is why it is through him that we utter our Amen to God for his glory. 2 Corinthians 1:20. 

Before time was wound, when the Father set Him apart, to simultaneously be the sheep to be slain and the shepherd to lay down His life for the flock, He said, “Yes, let it be so.

When the time came to step into time and be born as a crying newborn, He cried,  “Yes, let it be so.”

In the garden, after wrestling with the looming shadows of death, He wrested a, “Yes, let it be so.”

After three days in darkness, the Father called him forth from the grave, as he had recently done with Lazarus,  and he shouted, “Yes,  let it be so.”

As I was thinking about all these yeses, Sarai-soon-to-become-Sarah, the brave matriarch came to mind.

Sarai Said Yes

Yes to the unknown. Yes to leaving her home. Yes to follow her husband to an unknown           land.
Yes to the God who refused to fail her when foolish Abram did. Twice. Yes to her husband’s God becoming her own.
An impatient yes to her nagging fear that birthed an Ishmael.
A dubious laugh betraying unbelief that God could do what could not be done.
Yes in the formed of shocked laughter as she held her promised child in her wrinkling arms.
A horrified no when Abraham took their beloved son on a death-doomed errand.
An exultant yes to the God who said no just in time because a greater Yes was to come.
A tearful, triumphant yes to her aged partner as he held her hand on her deathbed, asking, “My sweet Sarah, would you do it all again?”

I cannot wait to be present when my friend Shelby says yes tonight. Watching her do so will point me to the One whose Yes enabled my own yes.

 

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The Importance of Wasting Time

I spent the first ten minutes sitting there twiddling my thumbs and beating myself up that I left my computer, commentaries and study notes in the car. Oddly enough I did not even have my Bible or my journal with me, which left me feeling utterly naked sitting at the coffee shop waiting on my friend who was running late for a morning chat.

Phrases with useful suggestions for how to spend the intermittent 15 minutes remaining were on a continual loop through my mind. “I could be using this time finishing up discussion lessons; I really need to tweak my notes for the Bible lecture next week. If nothing else, I could be journaling or memorizing Scripture.”  

I giggled as I looked up in my antsy, super-charged efficiency mode to see the coffee shop’s motto, Waste Time Together, painted in hipster hues on a chalkboard counter. (Aside: San Diego friends, check out Scrimshaw Coffee on El Cajon Blvd).

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Ah, Lord, I see. You finally got my attention. You desire nothing more for me in these stolen moments than to desire to waste time with you, sitting in your presence, getting nothing measurable accomplished.

This past few months have been among the busier of my recent life. Hosting dear out of town friends and family, starting a new 20 hour a week job, helping to get Fall ministry events kicked off and rolling, all on top of the normal insanity that is trying to be a wife and momma to three and a mostly functioning human being.

Martha was engaged at her sister for “wasting time,” sitting at Jesus feet with all the meals to be cooked, water to be drawn and details to be finished for the meal with their famous rabbi friend, Jesus. To her great surprise and to ours as well, He rebuked her for rebuking her sister. It seems that in Jesus’ economy, time is measured differently.

Similarly, Jesus’ disciples were in a rush. They had been summoned to the home of wealthy mover and shaker, Jairus, to heal his dying daughter. No time to waste. Hurry, hurry. Weave through the crowds. But Jesus did not succumb to their haste. He had time to stop in the midst of a crushing crowd to address the bleeding and desperate woman who had, in faith, touched the hem of his cloak.

Recently, I was convicted while reading a book written many decades ago by a busy physician and his busy friends, addressing the topic of fatigue in the then-modern society. As a Swiss physician addressing other Christian doctors and pastors, Paul Tournier talked about our tendency to “have too many irons on the fire.” He wrote, “Men are in a hurry, and we physicians and pastors even more so than others.”

Tournier urged his audience to consider “each instance of fatigue” as a signal calling us “to meditate a little more, for it can be a sign that something is not in order in our life, something which we must examine before God.” He prescribed “meditation and this search for a sovereignty of God in the organization of our lives” as a “remedy for hurry and commotion.”

Teach us to number our days that we may present to you a heart of wisdom.
Psalm 90:12. 

I have always read this verse through the lens of urgency. Your days are numbered, therefore don’t waste a moment. Squeeze every bit of efficiency you can out of your days. Labor while it is still day, for the darkness is coming. That kind of thing.

While I do think that God desires us to use and invest our time intentionally and wisely, not sitting around passively vegging out or actively pursuing only our own comfort or desires, I am also learning to see that God values our carefully chosen and guarded wasted time with Him.

Just as I am willing to “waste” time that could be invested in other significant and necessary tasks to spend time simply watching a football game beside my husband or picking up acorns with my children, the Lord longs that I would be willing to “waste” time with Him.

Its not that journaling is wrong or that studying the Scriptures is a poor time investment; indeed, generally speaking, both are commendable investments of time. It’s just that sometimes, I deem those as useful tasks rather than opportunities to sit and enjoy the beauty of God.

In all my desire to serve Him, to be a cleansed vessel, useful to the Master, a la 2 Timothy 2:21, I do not want to forget His beauty and His matchless Worth. He is worthy of wasting time that could be otherwise spent. He is infinitely beautiful and He longs to be enjoyed and explored, not simply served and proclaimed.

Excuse me, I must go and waste time with my Jesus.

 

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When Fiction Strengthens Faith: Silas Marner

Fiction has a way of enfleshing fact and enlivening truth. I delight to see glimpses of Biblical and eternal truths show up in the lives of fictional characters. Of late, Silas Marner, George Eliot’s short but powerful novel, has been dramatizing eternal truths on the stage of the page.

Silas Marner, one of the first English novels to present an honest depiction of the rural poor, revolves largely around two main characters: a wealthy man named Godfrey Cass and a poor weaver, Silas Marner,  an outsider to the small town they both inhabited. Godfrey, who made a hasty decision to sleep with a shady lady, ended up in an unfortunate secret marriage that produced an unwanted child. When the mother of his child died in the cold, he found himself at a crossroads. Rather than claim the child, he hid in anonymity, seeing this as his chance to marry the woman he truly loved, Nancy.

Silas Marner, a solitary, sad weaver who found solace in his weaving and the treasury he was slowly accumulating over the years, found himself empty when his treasury was stolen. Then, he found himself at his own crossroads when the tiny toddler (secretly Godfrey’s son) crawled into Marner’s cottage out of the cold after her mother died suddenly.

Marner chooses to raise the toddler who has strangely chosen him. The toddler, whom he names Eppie, slowly melts Marner’s people-hardened heart.

oscar-aguilar-327798-unsplash.jpgThe Expulsive Power of a Greater Affection

Thomas Chalmers, a Scottish minister of the 1800’s, aptly described the way the gospel  works in the lives of believers. In a day and age when the focus was on getting rid of ungodly passions and desires, Chalmers explained that the best way to oust a poor or lesser desire was by replacing it with a greater desire. While I know this conceptually and have heard it expounded upon theologically, I was able to see it brought to life through Silas.

A growing love for Eppie fills the gaping hole in his heart and life that he had been attempting to fill with his earnings. Where his life had taken on the calculated rhythm of the loom over which he labored, Eppie brought life to his home and a peopled purpose to his soul.

Eliot beautifully captures the expulsive power of a greater affection.

“Unlike the gold which needed nothing and must be worshipped in close-locked solitude – which was hidden away from the daylight, was deaf to the song of birds, and started to no human tones  – Eppie was a creature  of endless claims and ever-growing desires, seeking  and loving sunshine, and living sounds,  and living movements; making trial of everything, with trust in new joy, and stirring human kindness in all eyes that looked on her. The gold had kept his thoughts in an ever-repeated circle, leading to nothing beyond itself; but Eppie was  an object compacted of changes and hopes that forced his thoughts onward, and carried them far away from their old eager pacing towards the same blank limit.”

Once his heart was filled with Eppie, he no longer brooded over his stolen wages. In fact, when it is found many years later, when Eppie is a teenager, the money is of little consequence to him.

The Mercy of a Full Confession

I love the prayer, “Lord, give us the mercy of a full confession.” In our world and in the flesh’s shadowed thinking, confession is something to be avoided at all costs. However, the Christian knows what the Psalmist so clearly explains in Psalm 32: when we keep quiet about our sins, body, mind and soul waste away. Freedom and forgiveness  are the gifts that come on the other side of confession.

Eliot’s character Godfrey Cass illustrates both the heaviness of hidden sin and the freedom that comes from being seen and known.  After his bratty, black-mailing brother (who stole Marner’s money, by the way) dies, his secret is technically safe. But the weight of his past weighs down heavily upon him. Even though he “got away” with no one knowing about his ill-chosen first marriage and his child and he was able to marry the true love of his life, Godfrey walks with lead feet through life.

The irony is that now that he longs to have a child of his own, his wife cannot seem to bear a child. She feels the weight of disappointing her husband, and he carries his own hidden heaviness, both of which end up eclipsing what could be a happy marriage…until the brother’s body is discovered with the stolen gold.

At that moment, Godfrey decides to come clean to his wife.

“Everything comes to the light sooner or later, Nancy. When God Almighty wills it, our secrets are found out. I’ve lived with a secret on my mind, but I’ll keep it from you no longer…that woman Marner found dead in the snow – Eppie’s mother – that wretched woman – was my wife; Eppie is my child.”

When Godfrey fully expected to be shamed and shunned, his wife showed him forgiveness and love. Suddenly,  the wall that had been growing between them collapsed. While they remained childless, they had the joy of being fully known and loved.

There are buckets of other treasures in this small gem of a classic. But I shall leave some of them for your own finding!